Bidding is an art, not a lottery

The welfare to work and work-based skills worlds are burgeoning with current and imminent tender opportunities, National Careers Service, Ministry of Justice, DWP Personal Independence Payment Assessment, LEP and devolved ESF alongside significant apprenticeship levy opportunities. Compared to organic growth, winning a tender can provide an immediate cash boost and it can be all too tempting to jump on the bidding bandwagon.  But before you pick up the pen, ask yourself the following three questions, can you deliver, can you win and is it profitable? These questions seem rather obvious when written down on the page, but the process will give clarity to your thinking, help you make informed decisions and use precious resources wisely.


So, can you deliver the service, not to be confused with do you want to deliver or like the idea? The exact details of what the buyer wishes to procure will be set down in the Service Specification. Take time to read this document so that you understand every detail and then ask yourself if you can present a compelling evidence-based case which will meet or exceed the requirement. For example, do you have a track record of delivering the same or a similar service? How successful was that delivery? Do you have experience of working with the client group or in a particular sector or delivery of a specific apprenticeship standard or qualification? Do you already operate in the defined geography or do you need to build new networks, recruit new staff or get new premises?  In some cases, you may not have delivered the exact requirement but there may be transferrable expertise you can use.


Having determined you can deliver, can you win?  Understanding the likely competition is a good starting point, for example, who is the incumbent, and have they delivered well? Attending briefing events provides a valuable insight into who else is interested. Often, it’s the quietly confident note taker who has read the specification and is there to watch the body language and behaviours of others rather than the loud person who asks lots of questions. Do ask questions but don’t expose weaknesses or give away winning solutions. If you decide not to bid, use this event to secure a position as a supply chain partner. If you do bid, remember that producing a winning bid can be incredibly time consuming. The largest providers may have dedicated bid resource. If you don’t have resource in house, or you will be doing the bid in addition to your day job, consider using an interim professional to gain an edge against your competitors.


The final thing to consider is can you deliver profitably and do you meet the financial threshold detailed in the specification?  Often the price submitted attracts a percentage of the overall bid score, driving bidders to discount, often significantly. Create a simple spreadsheet and use it to understand the funding drivers and the phasing of the funding.


If you do bid, then plan, bid strategically and invest to win.


Many providers use a Bid-No-Bid template to help them collate the information about the bid which can be used as the basis for internal discussion. Please contact Red 5 if you would like to receive our free template.


Red 5 have professional interim bid writing and bid management resource available, please contact us for a discussion.